Monday, May 16, 2016

Blue Mountain 400k Ride Report

Photo compliments of CJ A.

Preliminary results for the 400k have been posted at:

Preliminary results for the 200k have been posted at:

Please let me know of any corrections or other issues.  Results will be submitted shortly, and become final, pending RUSA certification.

There are some randonneurs that say the 400k is the most difficult of the brevets since it is the longest distance that has to be completed without the benefit of an overnight sleep stop.  Since it's appearance in 2010, The Blue Mountain 400k has proven to be one of the more challenging of the 400ks.

Organizers Bill Olsen & Guy Harris along with "master starter" Chris Nadovich once again pulled off a fantastic brevet.  Seventeen riders clipped in for a 4am start from the hostel and headed out into the damp darkness for a full day of brevet adventure.  By sunrise the weather was improving and provided a few hours of sunshine.  And wind.  As the day progressed, a pair of fronts passed through each with a line of rain squalls.  By evening, the rains had passed and most riders were benefiting from a tailwind assist toward Quakertown.  Sixteen riders finished the 400k course within the time limit while all three 200k starters finished.

Keeping the riders company were volunteers Gil Lebron and Doug Haluza.  Gil pre-rode the route earlier in the week, helped out at the start, and then spent time out on the course encouraging everyone as a revitalment control.  Doug spent most of the day Saturday keeping tabs on the riders as a sweeping observer.  You can find Doug's photo album from the day at Gaffney, rode the 200k route, handled food prep for his fellow 200k riders, and then set out to watch over the 400k riders in the final miles of the course.  Seeing these friendly faces out on a tough course often provides that extra little bit of motivation to keep tired riders pedaling onward.  Thanks to these volunteers for adding that extra bit that makes PA brevets so successful.

Three strong riders, Bill Fischer, Gavin Biebuyck, and Geoff Brunner, managed to claim first finisher spots.  Writes Gavin:  "Great ride. The route tweaks made the ride very different from my first 400k six years ago on this same general route.  Much quieter and yet relentless rollers!  Panther Valley gets my vote for best new road. I also was surprised to view Route 23 to Morgantown from the clouds on a northern ridge I have only ever viewed from below - quiet pretty reroute that avoids the busy main road - thanks Andrew! Leisurely stops at Lickdale and the BK in Morgantown during rain squalls kept us drier than expected.  Ended up with some sunburn. Thanks to great volunteer effort!"

We also note that Geoff Brunner, while notching his first RUSA 400k finish, is no stranger to the distance.  Geoff will be starting his third RAAM next month.  We wish him well. Geoff writes: "...Just wanted to share a note of thanks directed to those who made yesterday a good experience for me.  I finished my first 400k, and I was fortunate to have two strong riders and even better guys assist me through the last fifty miles of the course.  Bill led the perfect navigation and Gavin came up "big" allowing me to use his spare headlight when my feeble excuse for a nighttime vision device wasn't going to "cut it" during the wet, winding descents in the dark throughout this stretch.  I was concerned about the last 30 miles when Limerick turned into a bit of a ghost town at 9:30pm, but they helped pull me through.  Chris, Gil, and Doug were great in their support of the event and Bill's friendly energy after we arrived made the satisfaction of finishing that much more enjoyable (never has lasagna tasted so good!).  Lastly, thanks to you for your efforts in creating this great day of riding with good people on mostly peaceful roads with mostly courteous drivers sharing their space with us. Hope to be a part of future endeavors with the PA Randonneurs. ..."

CJ Arayata, James Hadad and Nick Manta also notched their first 400k finishes.

I don't have much else to say, still physically and mentally recovering.... but that was the hardest ride I have ever done up to this point. Just wanted to link some pictures.
Also, it was much appreciated to have Gil and Doug as roving volunteers. Not that I don't appreciate all of the work that Chris, Bill, and Guy put into it with the preride/hostel, but something about seeing a familiar face out on course that can give a much needed boost...
James adds:  This weekends' 400k was one of my favorite rides ever. The cue sheet was perfect. The roads were fantastic. I had a great time and loved every minute of the ride! Please pass on my thanks to the other volunteers, Chris, Bill, Guy, Bob and Gil (and anyone I may have inadvertently skipped). It was particularly great seeing Gil sitting on his tail gate with jugs of water in Bowmanstown. 

It was noted during the pre-ride checkout that the closing miles were almost devoid of any support facilities at the hour in which most riders would be passing.  A last-minute cue sheet change involved adding notes for two off-course oases in the final miles near Linfield.  Volunteer Pat Gaffney stationed himself near there to direct tired randonneurs to off-course food in Linfield lest their reading skills at the late hour fail them.  At least one randonneur's ride was saved through the restorative power of a little food, rest, and time off the bike.

Joe Ray was among the front-runners for much of the day until suddenly he wasn't.  Joe found the Limerick Diner, a 24-hour randonneur's dream, and managed a recovery in the face of what briefly appeared  a certain DNF.  Joe reports:
"Thanks for such an incredible day yesterday.  The route took me thru areas I have never visited by car, much less by bike.  The approaching storms and what they would be like and where would we be when they hit added a bit of drama.  I had to stop, escorted from mile 196 by Greg Keenan and Callista Phillips, at the diner near mile 225, which saved my ride.  There's quite frankly not many other options!  The diner set me back on track with oatmeal, water and a booth to sleep in for two hours.  It was somewhat slow going at 3am but it's done and I am quite pleased.  Thanks to the volunteers for all their hard work and hospitality, at the hostel and at the controls."
His experience proves the old randonneuring advice that when you think you can't go any further, get off the bike for a bit, relax, eat a bit, and then start again refreshed.  Many-a-brevet has been saved using these sage words.

Safety is always a big concern for us, especially as distances increase and we know riders will be tired. Please mention any safety hazard you might have spotted or near-miss incident your saw.  Your feedback will help us to improve things for next time. Cue sheet warnings and countless re-routes to avoid problems help but cannot fully eliminate the risk.  One rider found a large pothole along Neiffer Road in the closing miles and took a spill.  Fortunately the rider seems OK, but it reminds us all to stay alert and don't be afraid to take a few minute power nap to restore your perception if necessary.

Long time PA Randonneur Rick Carpenter returned for one of his periodic visits and enjoyed the 200k route.  He and George Brandt had a great time judging from the pictures by Rick

Next up is the 600k.  Details are posted on the website at:
You can register on line at: Registrations closes at 5PM on the Thursday before the event.
Or if you'd like to find out what happens behind the scenes and help out, we are looking for a couple of more volunteers to be out on course for support.  Just drop a line to either of us or use the volunteer sign-up page at:

Tom Rosenbauer, Eastern PA RBA
Andrew Mead, Eastern PA RBA Designate


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  2. Thanks for Bypassing Louie's in Great Meadows. I know it must have taken some restraint to not offer this up for my benefit.